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# A History of Pi

The history of pi, says the author, though a small part of the history of mathematics, is nevertheless a mirror of the history of man. Petr Beckmann holds up this mirror, giving the background of the times when pi made progress -- and also when it did not, because science was being stifled by militarism or religious fanaticism.

Paperback, 208 pages

Published
July 15th 1976
by St. Martin's Griffin
(first published January 1st 1971)

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What the world needs now are more opinionated and bellicose mathematicians, and I’m itching to pumme...more

As a history of pi, it kind of doesn't really work for a couple of reasons. First of all, its not really a history of pi. Its more like a history of mathematics in general. But even there, its far too anecdotal to serve as any real history lesson. Beckmann jumps and skips from one era to another giving you the lowdown on a random sampling...more

However, when the first few examples he gives of how the ancients found their values for pi are rendered into oh-so-simple differential calc...more

I stumbled across it in the process of looking for Beckmann's monograph "The Scattering of Electromagnetic Waves from Rough Surfaces" for some E/M research I was involved with. It's a great treatise, but that's beside the point. Next to it on the shelf was "A History of Pi."

Pi itself is an interesting subject, but Beckmann is only hijacking the fundamental constant to tell the broader story of the history of mathematics. Each milestone, ea...more

...moreIn 1486, Torquemada sentenced the Spanish mathematician Valmes to be burned at the stake because Valmes had claimed to have found the solution of the quartic equation. It was the will of God, maintained the Grand Inquisitor of the Holy Office of the Inquisit

I did f...more

"'I thought it fit to write out for you and explain in detail in the same book the peculiarity of a certain method, by which it will be possible for you to investigate some of the problems in mathematics by means of mechanics. This procedure is, I am persuaded, no less useful even for the proofs of the theorems themselves; for certain things first became clear to me by a mechani...more

Jul 05, 2010
Mikko Karvonen
rated it
1 of 5 stars
·
review of another edition

Recommends it for:
no-one

Fascinating subject - awful book.

While Beckman may know his mathematics and the story of pi, he lacks many other qualities necessary to write historical books. The writing is full of factual errors and problematic generalizations about non-mathematical things, as well as obnoxious and belittling attitude towards ancient cultures, their achivements and views of the world. A history books should not include off-hand remarks on how many historical mathematical documents arabs wiped their bottoms wi...more

While Beckman may know his mathematics and the story of pi, he lacks many other qualities necessary to write historical books. The writing is full of factual errors and problematic generalizations about non-mathematical things, as well as obnoxious and belittling attitude towards ancient cultures, their achivements and views of the world. A history books should not include off-hand remarks on how many historical mathematical documents arabs wiped their bottoms wi...more

Mar 27, 2008
James Lundy
rated it
3 of 5 stars

Recommends it for:
nerds, math fans, history buffs, people who study numerology

The history of math and science (and therefore scientific thought, and therefore mankind) is a fascinating field. I was exposed to it in high school by a Jesuit priest who was a fanatic about it. I think I remember more about the history of science than I do about science. Anyway, this is a good read, maybe lasts a little longer than your interest in Pi does but I think it walks the middle road between too simplified and too scholarly. If you don't read the book remember this: if you have a calc...more

This book is not boring. If you are willing to open your eyes to the beauty of mathematics then exploring the number Pi will astound you with humanity's desire to understand this significant and, equally, in...more

I couldn't say there is much to be taken away from

*A History of Pi*though. It's engaging and well-composed, but not very thought-provoking absent any real controversy or plot direction. It's just...more

More interesting are Beckmann's historical comments, referring (with justification) to the Romans as "thugs", and the odd rant about Soviet supression, which seems to the modern reader as naturally dated.

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Jan 02, 2010 04:32PM